A Premiere Rhode Island Law Firm

Can Rhode Island passengers drink alcohol in a car?

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Most Rhode Island drivers know the consequences of drinking and driving are severe. As a result, they would never think to drink alcohol while driving.

It’s not uncommon to wonder if the same law applies to their passenger. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with the passenger being drunk as long as they aren’t the one driving. In actuality though, the answer is that it depends.

Knowing open container laws

Most states don’t allow the presence of any open containers of alcohol anywhere in public, even if they’re empty. This includes out in the street, on sidewalks, and in vehicles.

Because of this, even passengers aren’t allowed to drink alcohol in the car. The only time they can consume alcohol out in public is at an establishment with a license to serve alcohol, like a restaurant or bar.

Consequences of driving with an open container of alcohol

If a driver is pulled over with an open container of alcohol anywhere in their car, they may get an open container violation. If it’s within reach or on their person, the fine might be more expensive and their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels might be tested to determine if they need to be charged with a DUI.

If the passenger is the only one with an open container of alcohol, both the driver and the passenger will be cited for the violation. The BAC levels of the passenger don’t matter, and generally, cops won’t test it.

Are there any exceptions to the rule?

Rhode Island has strict open container laws like most other states, but not every state has an open container law. Some states that don’t have laws regarding open containers include Missouri, Mississippi, and Connecticut. It’s essential to know the laws wherever you’re driving before you let a passenger consume a drink while in a car.